“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” ― Victor Hugo
Many of us wouldn’t give them a second thought unless they are noticeably bad; some escape our notice entirely, while some rouse us in such a way that they can make us believe we are someone else – a superhero, a villain or an undiscovered genius.
Soundtracks are the backbone of the very best of films. Some intentionally linger in the background, while some crescendo until your heart literally pounds in the cinema.
Here is a selection of some of the best:
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Original Music by: Junkie XL
I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Mad Max.
What struck me most about George Miller’s revival of the series wasn’t the spell-binding cinematography or masterful action-filled set-pieces, it was the film’s soundtrack. As much as Tom Hardy leads the visuals with his rendition of our much-loved Rockatansky, it’s the soundtrack that immerses you in the wasteland.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Producers: James Gunn, Kevin Feige & Dave Jordan
Featuring an epic dance-off that summarises the very best of Guardians of the Galaxy’s use of existing music, I implore you to check out this soundtrack in its entirety, if you haven’t already. From Bowie, Blue Suede and even Jackson 5 – the music selection in this film perfectly complements its pop-culture-rich narrative in a way that hasn’t been harnessed so successfully in a film before (to my knowledge, at least). The album topped the Billboard 200 for 11 consecutive weeks and 16 weeks in total. I even have a copy of it in my car.
Blade Runner (1982)
Produced by: Vangelis
I’m not usually one for 80s-synth but it would be unfair to not include the soundtrack on this list:
Vangelis creates haunting soundscapes with whispered subtexts and sweeping revelations, drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern textures and evoking neo-classical structures. Often cold and forlorn, the listener can almost hear the indifferent winds blowing through the neon and metal cityscapes of Los Angeles in 2019.
The soundtrack is regarded as a historically important piece in the genre of electronic music, and has been variously described as, ‘influential and mythical’ and ‘evocative’ -‘the pinnacle of synthesiser soundtracks’, much like Blade Runner itself is a cornerstone of the dystopian sci-fi film. Even today, the soundtrack seems ahead of it’s time; it must sound amazing on vinyl.
Produced by: Cliff Martinez
Hearing the soundtrack again for this post gave me goosebumps.
It’s stylish, slick and exudes confidence: much like the film it accompanies. Ryan Gosling’s driver is the centre of attention, but the real star of Drive is cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. ‘He isolates deft colour symmetries, constructs angular frames plumed by light flares and street halos, and cares about the space around characters as much as he does the characters themselves’, writes Sukhdev Sandhu.
Martinez’s scores convey a dark mood that sets up the scenes, and every one is like a page from a comic book. They tell a story while expressing the emotion behind the dull-eyed hero… This music is a fluid interpretation of a re-mastered 80s classic. It is not from the 80s, but easily could have been. The depth that is installed in each song is equivalent to the depth of this film – Ppcorn.com
Drive is a masterful collaboration between top-class cinematography and a well-crafted soundtrack.
Ah, Trainspotting. It’s been a while. The soundtrack is a fine blend of techno and pop (never thought I’d write that!) Featuring an all-star collection of British pop and techno stars – everyone from Blur, Pulp, and Elastica to Leftfield, Primal Scream, and Underworld – contributed to the soundtrack, which also features a couple of oldies by veteran punk godfathers like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.
The entire soundtrack holds together surprisingly well, as the techno tracks balance with the pop singles. Every song is quite melancholy, creating an effectively bleak, but oddly romantic, atmosphere for the entire record.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Music by: Mycheal Danna & Rob Simonsen.
What every anti-rom-com needs is The Smiths… and Wolfmother, and Hall & Oates and Black Lips… you get the point. There’s something about the composition of the entire soundtrack that makes it a pleasure to listen to regardless of whether you’re watching the film or not. (500) Days of Summer is a quirky, unique film accompanied by some fine music. The Hall & Oates fountain scene is my personal favourite.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Directed (and music chosen) by: Quentin Tarantino
While I’m not Tarantino’s biggest fan, I won’t deny he has a masterpiece with Pulp Fiction. There’s something about it’s intelligent composition and its use of music as a device that still makes it a pleasure to watch even today.
Not only is the film itself immaculately made, but the soundtrack is also one of the greatest and most iconic of all time. From the great use of surf rock standards as background and mood to Al Green and Kool & the Gang as perfect commentary to one of the best Neil Diamond covers/dance sequences ever, the soundtrack supplements the film to a T and also stands alone as one of the greatest mix-tapes – Consequence of Sound
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Producer: Richard Hartley
A cult classic with an iconic soundtrack. There’s nothing else I could say about it that hasn’t already been said, besides…
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN.
Pitch Perfect (2012)
Producer: Harvey Mason, Jr. Sound Editor: Sean McCormack
Unadulterated cheesy goodness. Pitch Perfect is a joy to watch: a perfect blend of poplar music, comedy and a dash of romance. Sure, it might not be for everyone but the soundtrack is awesome. Especially the ‘Cup’ song. If you haven’t learned to play a plastic cup, have you even seen this film? Get on it!
Furthermore, the acapella-style songs is pretty unique. Not many films would dare to include it unless they could do it well. Pitch Perfect 3 is a testament to the film’s success.
La La Land (2016)
Composer: Justin Hurwitz
Ah, my love for this film has not yet withered.
It’s soundtrack is a masterpiece that I urge you to listen to if you haven’t already. I’ll admit, I’d only checked out musicals previously if I had to. But this? Justin Hurwitz has reinvigorated my, and many others’, love for the musical. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s performances are real, raw and aspirational to those who like to sing along.
It’s been over a month since I saw La La Land and I’ve since bought the soundtrack and listen regularly.